I decided I'm moving forward with my series of writing posts. Today I want to delve into what friendly letters look like in my classroom.
We are in the age of technology. Kids are texting and curious about social media. It's a great time to show them just how unique letter writing can be. Since nobody seems to send "snail mail" anymore, it is new and exciting for young students. In my class, we learn about friendly letters and then my students write to a pen pal. Last year we wrote to the students in another second grade classroom in our building. Oh, and if you aren't interested in pen pals but still want students to practice with a purpose, you could have students write Friday letters to their families, start a Flat Stanley project, or simply write to a class pet or mascot.
Before I tell my students that we're beginning a letter writing unit, I casually read picture books with letters inside. As a bonus, I can determine the schema my students already have without them even knowing! Here are some of my favorites:
Oh, and if you're searching online for picture books, you might come across Sincerely Yours: Writing Your Own Letter by Nancy Loewen. It's a really good book, but it's meant for the teacher to read, not really a read aloud kind of book.
Once I have gone through my favorite books, I will begin teaching the 5 parts of a friendly letter and I usually start with our anchor chart. I LOVE seeing anchor charts on blogs & Pinterest, but to be honest, I HATE making them and hardly ever take pictures of mine. In fact, there are only two things I love about anchor charts (using Mr. Sketch markers and knowing my students are using them). Here are some pics I found online that helped guide me to making my own anchor chart:
This one is from Following Optimism in 2nd Grade:
Here's a little freebie that would be great to print and place inside your students writing folders or journals as a reference tool. This is from The Colorful Apple:
Another way to teach your students the parts of a friendly letter is with this handy flipbook. This idea was found over at Teaching Maddeness:
Sometimes we'll even sing. Now, if you knew me in real life, you know that the only people I sing in front of are my own children (who treat me like a rockstar) and my students (when NO other adults are present). So, I make sure that the classroom door is closed and belt out this tune with the kiddos (PS - if you know the original source for this one, please share):
Soon, we're ready to begin writing. I start by writing a letter to the class. Okay, remember how I said I hardly ever take pictures of my anchor charts? You've been warned. Here's one of mine:
After identifying the questions as a group, we're ready to start our pre-write.
It isn't fancy (or pretty), but we always do two things on our paper:
First, we write out the questions asked along with answers that restate the question. Who wants to read a letter that says I like blue, pizza, and 9:00? Writing letters is NOT like texting or e-mailing. You don't get to go back and look at the questions you asked someone else. So I expect my students restate their answers.
Next, we write new questions. In my classroom the kids must ask 3-5 new questions. Why 3-5? Well, second graders don't always realize that in order to keep a conversation going, you have to give the other person something to comment on or answer. On the other hand, if I don't put a cap on the number, I would have a few kiddos writing our 67 questions. No joke! In my opinion, 3-5 is a fair and reasonable number for all of my students.
Once they finish these two steps, they must have an adult check their work. Then it's time to start their first draft:
Once they finish their first draft, they bring the paper to me for corrections. Sometimes I correct on the spot and if there are time constraints, I will collect the papers and make corrections another time.
When students get their corrections back, they get to choose the paper for their final copy. I usually offer two choices:
Here are some final copies:
Notebook paper is great, but sometimes you just need the "fancy paper" to motivate your kids to write neatly. If you don't have the time (or patience) to create your own, here are two great places to grab some papers. First, I love the seasonal paper packs from Forever First Grade by Lindsey Brooks. The lines are the perfect size for my 2nd grade writers. Click below to check out the spring pack, but she has them for fall, winter, and summer, too! The final copies shown above are created by her!
This set is a freebie from Literacy Spark:
If you still need some great ideas, but don't have the time to look around or gather a bunch of resources on your own, I highly recommend this letter writing pack from Erica Bohrer. It is filled with anchor charts, ideas that tie in with picture books, crafts, and more! Click on the picture below to read (and see) more about it on her blog:
Sometime soon I hope to be back with ideas for How-To Writing and Opinion Writing. In case you missed it, here's a link to the last writing post I did: